If you're one of the millions of people who suffer from acne, you know that it can be both embarrassing and frustrating. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to treat acne-prone skin, and with a little bit of experimenting, you can find the routine that works best for you. We wanted to share some of the most popular methods for treating acne, so you can understand all your options!
Keep in mind that everyone's skin is different, so what works for one person might not work for another. Be patient and don't give up until you find the treatment that clears your skin up completely! With a consistent skincare routine, we're confident you'll be able to manage your breakouts & feel confident in your skin again!
1. Understand the different types of acne
Acne can take several forms which include: blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, fungal acne, nodules, and cysts. Below is a description of the various types.
- Blackheads look as their name suggests. They look as if dirt has deposited into the pore. However, the black spots are actually caused by an irregular light reflection off the clogged follicle.
- Whiteheads are often red-looking bumps that remain closed by oil and dead skin.
- Papules are small red bumps that become inflamed. They do not contain pus.
- Pustules are often filled with yellow pus and are larger than whiteheads and blackheads. They can be caused from hormonal changes and are typically found in clusters. DO NOT pop pustules as this can lead to the bacteria spreading.
- Fungal acne occurs when an excess of yeast develops in the hair follicles. They can become itchy and inflamed.
- Nodules are solid and painful pimples deep in your skin. Because nodules form deep in the skin, over the counter options may not be as effective. In this case, a Dermatologist may need to drain them by using a chemical peel or laser to access this layer of the skin.
- Cysts are the most serious type of acne and occur deep in the skin. They are often large, red, painful, and pus-filled. Because it is the most difficult to treat, Dermatologists may prescribe medication or inject the area to remove this acne.
Both blackheads and whiteheads are non-inflammatory. This means they are generally easier to treat. Unfortunately, the remaining types are much more challenging. We have listed some steps you can take to treat the acne yourself. Tackling stubborn acne is no easy fete though! Remember to be patient and contact a Dermatologist if you aren’t seeing the results you’re hoping for.
2. Identify your skin type
Most people know their hair and eye color, but how many people know their skin type? Knowing your skin type can also help you identify any underlying skin conditions. This knowledge can also give you a better understanding of the relationship between your skin type and acne.
There are five general skin types: normal, dry, oily, sensitive and combination.
- Normal skin is neither too dry nor too oily; it has good elasticity and a healthy balance of oil and moisture. Even normal skin can be prone to acne. However, it may not be as easy to identify as it is in dry or oily skin.
- Dry skin is flaky, tight and sometimes itchy. With dry skin, acne is often caused by a buildup of dead skin cells and pores are more likely to break open and allow in dirt and oil. A combination of exfoliation and moisturizing is key.
- Oily skin is shiny, thick and may have large pores. This excess oil can easily clog pores and cause breakouts. Cleansing and refraining from touching your face with oily skin is important.
- Sensitive skin becomes easily irritated, often by cosmetics or other environmental factors. Because of the highly reactive nature of sensitive skin, some acne products may even worsen this condition. It may be easy to get frustrated with this, but learning which ingredients and products make your skin react is critical to treating acne with this skin type.
Combination skin is dry in some areas (usually the cheeks) and oily in the T-zone (the forehead, nose and chin). In this case, someone with combination skin may frequently see acne in a particular area of their face. In this case, it’s important to spot treat your T-zones and moisturize.
3. Cleanse your skin properly
Cleanse your skin in the morning and at night before going to bed. Cleansing your skin consistently will not only help to keep your acne symptoms at bay but also assists in achieving a clear complexion. Keep in mind, the type of cleanser you use will depend on the severity of your acne, the sensitivity of your skin, and your skin type. If you have severe to mild breakouts a face wash with salicylic acid will help to unclog oil in your pores. Consider using a gentle cleanser without active ingredients and without fragrance if your skin is sensitive and easily irritated.
It may seem counterintuitive to moisturize skin that's already oily because acne treatments can be drying, but it's important to keep skin hydrated. This is especially the case for dry and combination skin types. In fact, when skin becomes dry, it often reacts by producing more sebum.
However, when moisturizing, be sure to select products that say “non-comedogenic” or “Non comedogenic ingredients”. Comedogenic means the tendency to clog pores. These moisturizers are usually a safe bet! However, you can always look up the individual ingredients to be absolutely positive they don’t have comedogenic qualities.
5. Use oil-free products (if they work for your skin)
Acne is often a result of excess sebum production, which is caused by overactive sebaceous glands. Sebum is the oily substance that coats the skin and hair. When too much sebum is produced, it can mix with dead skin cells and bacteria to form plugs in the hair follicles. This can lead to inflammation and acne..
While oil-free products will help to reduce acne breakouts for some individuals, this isn't always the case for others. In some cases, using oil-free products can actually make acne worse because these products can be more drying and irritating to the skin. Those with dry skin types may not benefit from oil-free products like their counterparts with oily skin. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment with different types of products until you find what works.
6. Apply acne treatments correctly
Before any acne over the counter product or prescription is applied, it is critical to always cleanse your face or area where you are applying the treatments. Additionally, due to the drying properties of many acne treatments, consider only spot treating the areas impacted by acne. Otherwise, these treatments may dry out the skin unnecessarily.
7. Resist Touching Your Acne
As tempting as it may be to pop your pimples, DON’T DO IT! Picking at or popping your pimples not only irritates them, but it also increases the risk of leaving scars. Touching or picking at your acne can also introduce bacteria from under your nails and cause more inflammation in your skin and extends your healing time.
8. Address any underlying conditions that may be contributing to your acne
Although it has been widely debated as a cause of acne, taking a look at your diet can help to clear up breakouts as well. As is a common suggestion, make sure you’re consuming enough water throughout your day. Our bodies are made up of 60% water and it helps to regulate our bodily functions and hormone production.
Did you know? Changes in hormones are a cause of increased sebum production which leads to acne. Thus, it is easy to initially pair acne with one’s teenage years when hormones are at an all-time high! Just remember, drinking more water and increasing anti-inflammatory foods, such as nuts and berries, may also help to relieve pain and inflammation in your skin.
9. Be patient - it may take a while to see results
As with any noticable and impactful changes in our lives, acne does take time to treat and heal. Consider popping your pimples the same as a fad diet. You may see an instant result, but it likely won’t last and you’ll also notice some consequences down the road (like acne scarring).
10. See a dermatologist if your acne doesn't improve
If your acne becomes worse or you are experiencing severe symptoms, consult a professional about your skin. No matter the type of acne you’re experiencing, it is important to find the solution that works best for you and your skin type. Dermatologists can address these issues with you and help guide you on your individual journey with acne.